|Evidence against Muslim
charity appears fabricated
An official summary of an FBI-wiretapped conversation contains
anti-Semitic slurs that do not appear in the actual transcript.
By Greg Krikorian
Times Staff Writer
Angeles" -- - -When the Bush administration
shut down the nation's largest Muslim charity five years ago,
officials of the Dallas-based foundation denied allegations it
was linked to terrorists and insisted that a number of
accusations were fabricated by the government.
Now, attorneys for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and
Development say the government's own documents provide evidence
of that claim.
In recent court filings, defense lawyers disclosed striking
discrepancies between an official summary and the verbatim
transcripts of an FBI-wiretapped conversation in 1996 involving
Holy Land officials.
The summary attributes inflammatory, anti-Semitic comments to
Holy Land officials that are not found in a 13-page transcript
of the recorded conversation. It recently was turned over to the
defense by the government in an exchange of evidence.
Citing the unexplained discrepancies, defense lawyers have asked
U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish in Dallas to declassify
thousands of hours of FBI surveillance recordings, so that full
transcripts would replace government summaries as evidence.
The demand could force government prosecutors to either
declassify evidence it has fought to keep secret or risk losing
a critical portion of evidence in its case.
In December, the judge denied a defense request to declassify
the documents so they could be examined by defendants in the
case. Seven former foundation officials, six of them U.S.
citizens, have been charged with funneling money to overseas
charities controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as
a foreign terrorist organization. The defendants have denied the
Though defense attorneys already have government clearances that
allow them to review the material, under the federal Classified
Information Procedures Act they have been prohibited from
sharing it with their clients. And unless the act's rules are
declared unconstitutional in the case, defense attorneys argue,
the defendants will have no way of proving that the statements
attributed to them were misconstrued or never made.
The recently declassified summary of surveillance on April 15,
1996, asserts that during a conversation wiretapped by the FBI,
Holy Land's former executive director Shukri Abu Baker told two
associates there was no need to worry about the foundation being
unfairly targeted because U.S. courts were not under the control
of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or its sponsor,
"the government of the demons of Israel."
The summary portrays Baker as raging against "the Jews of the
world" and as claiming that Jews have no allegiance to anything
but "their pockets and to preserving the illegal Zionist state
Additional anti-Semitic comments the FBI summary attributed to
Baker or Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land's former board chairman,
• "Their [Jews'] only purpose here in the U.S. is to purchase as
many politicians as possible and to warp the way the American
Christians feel and think not just about the Christian religion
but mainly about the Palestinian people … and to rob as much
money as possible from American taxpayers for the illegitimate
excuse of protecting and preserving the chosen people of God."
• "Even Jesus Christ had called the Jews and their high priests
… the sons of snakes and scorpions."
• "I am confident that in the end justice, and not the Jews,
will prevail. I believe that there is still justice in America."
None of those quotes was contained in a 13-page transcript of
the conversation, defense lawyers said in their motion to expand
access to classified evidence.
"Throughout the run-up to trial, the government has insisted
that the defendants can learn what is contained in the
[surveillance] intercepts by reading the so-called 'summaries'
of those intercepts," defense attorneys said in their papers.
But the recently disclosed transcript, attorneys said, shows
that "not only are the summaries so inaccurate and misleading as
to be useless," but that the "author of the attached summary has
cynically and maliciously attributed to the defendants racist
invective and inculpatory remarks the defendants never uttered."
"It is appalling that such summaries even exist, much less that
the government represented that this is all our clients need to
know in order to defend themselves."
Defense lawyers declined to comment about their motion. A
federal prosecutor said the government would respond with its
own filings to the court.
How the summary and transcript could be so different was
unclear, though experts in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act arena theorized that its top-secret nature may have led some
analysts to believe that the work product would never be
publicly disclosed, much less entered into evidence in a trial.
Because the court records are heavily redacted, it could not be
determined who provided the summaries of the FBI wiretaps.
Other alleged discrepancies also have dogged the case. Holy Land
lawyers challenged the accuracy of an FBI memo, for example,
that quoted a foundation office manager as telling Israeli
authorities that charitable funds were "channeled to Hamas."
But defense lawyers told the court the translation from Arabic
to Hebrew to English distorted the official's original
statement, and that he should have been quoted as saying, "We
have no connection to Hamas."
The Holy Land Foundation was closed weeks after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The action
followed years of efforts by Israel and many pro-Israeli groups
in the U.S. to close the foundation on the grounds that it was a
fundraising front for Hamas.
The former Holy Land officials facing trial are charged with
conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists by sending
money, goods and services to Palestinian charities controlled by
Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group since 1995.
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
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